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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 2, 2011

Fletcher plays down fitness concerns

Scotland captain Darren Fletcher insists he is unworried by his lack of playing time this year as he prepares to lead Craig Levein's side in crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

Fletcher, 27, has not played for his country in 2011 and has only played two competitive games since the beginning of March after being hit by a lingering virus.

The Manchester United midfielder worked with a personal fitness coach while his club team-mates were on their pre-season tour of the USA, and his appearances this season have been restricted to reserve games against Arsenal and Swansea.

But he dismissed claims his inclusion for the Hampden double-header is a risk, saying: "Not at all because of the experience I have at this level. I have 53 caps so I know what to expect at this level.

"I'm the captain - I feel I bring a lot to the team in terms of communication. I feel as fit as I ever have, I feel strong. Players have had one or two more matches than me but I don't believe that's a problem."

Fletcher, who has had to regain weight he lost when the mystery virus struck, is confident about facing both the Czechs on Saturday and Lithuania on Tuesday.

"First and foremost the Czech Republic game is the one but I don't envisage it being a problem playing both matches,'' he said. "I feel as fit as I have done in more than a year. I've had a fantastic pre-season, it was more of a personal pre-season. I worked very hard and I've come through both reserve games without a problem.''

Scotland manager Levein warned last month that Fletcher would need to make "exceptional'' progress to return to his squad but he is confident his skipper is ready.

"I have been assured by him and his club he is 100%,'' Levein said. "On the evidence of training this week I can tell you that's true. He has not played for a while, certainly not at this level.

"But he has the experience at this level. Is he going to be fazed by playing a game at this level? Certainly not. So for me it's an easy decision. I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever, in fact it's a huge bonus for us to have Darren fit and available and ready to lead the team.''

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